In the Spring of 2017, I came across the concept of OKRs, short for “Objectives and Key Results.” First created for use at Intel by Andy Grove, they began to hit their cultural stride once John Doerr brought them to the attention of Googlers. Now, they appear to be the hottest way to keep track of progress toward goals for Silicon Valley companies like Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Below are the key tenets of OKRs, why they are supposed to be helpful, and how to go about using them:
- OKRs stretch your skills. The overall goal is that you set objectives for yourself that you can’t 100% meet. In fact, the goal is to set objectives you could hit by about 90%. Why? Well, why not? Moving toward these goals that are *just* outside of your current skill set provide you with the opportunity to see exactly how far you can go. It also avoids that age-old challenge of setting goals you can easily meet. Well, if all your goals are ones you already know you can meet, where is the growth to be had from that?
- OKRs are transparent. Companies like Google have centralized platforms where employees write and display their OKRs within full view of their colleagues. The rationale behind this is twofold. First off, by making your goals public, you are more likely to achieve them (or in this case, come close). Secondly, it provides Googlers with the opportunity to see if anyone else has similar interests, goals, and objectives upon which they can collaborate. Thus, individual growth comes from collaborative experiences.
- OKRs lay the foundation for future OKRs. If you meet your OKRs, that lets you know that you did not push yourself enough. If you only progress say, 20% toward your OKR, that lets you know that your goal is too far outside your current realm of skill. OKRs met by 70-90% provide space for you to exhibit your current skills, strengthen them, and see what you still need to learn/do/have in order to then meet the remaining percentage. The system provides you with a regular opportunity to gain real-time data on your personal progress so you can course correct if necessary.
I was so excited by this idea, that I pitched it to a then friend, who is now a direct CCSD colleague. He was able to excite his former team on the concept and they still use them as a mentorship and growth tool to this day. (I would personally love to see how these could work with students, but more on that in a future blog post.)
It isn’t enough for me to just be excited. What I have observed is a need to really live my professional life as an experiment in lifelong learning, and the easiest way is to first settle on a way to chart and track my goals and progress. Though they will be a work in progress, here they are! I have embedded my OKRs below to maintain transparency, public and personal accountability, and to really test this process out as a non-Silicon Valley person. I really think this could prove powerful for use in education.
Ms. Willipedia’s OKRs (a work in progress): https://trello.com/b/ECKyqApC